My house is a metaphor for #GrabYourWallet


I had a man deliver two face cords of wood for $150 about two weeks ago. If we’d picked it up, it would have been $50 per face cord. $25 delivery charge. He had to make two trips so he charged the $25 delivery charge twice. I get it. Gas is expensive and loading the truck is time and labor. I’m fine with that part.

This morning, I shoved the wood into the wood stove and waited a few seconds. There it was. The hissssssss of wet, not properly seasoned wood on the fire. My daughter walked by and muttered, “Capitalist rat”.

He told me, “It’s been seasoning in my yard for three whole years.” Liar. My handy moisture meter thingy tells me different. After he unloaded the wood in my driveway, he told me some story about a hoity-toity couple from Minnesota who just moved here who he’d had sour business dealings with recently. “These richies from out of state move here thinking everyone is liberal and is going to give them everything they want for free. Sometimes you have to work for things,you know?”I can hear each sentence he speaks punctuated with “Make America Great Again.”

I know. I worked my ass off this past summer bringing home fallen trees and salvaged wood so that I wouldn’t have to give my money to dudes like you. But here I am, with some of that wood on the verge of but not quite being burnable and the rest of it to even split yet. This guy stands in my driveway telling me this story, wearing the typical redneck uniform. He’s even missing teeth but so am I . I’m sure people think I’m some white trash redneck  and maybe that’s why this guy thought I was the perfect audience for his tale. Instead I’m thinking, “Fucking hell, I hate giving Trump supporters my money. Do I tell him to take the wood back and ask for my money back? But then I have to find someone else to deliver wood right now and there’s a snowstorm coming. Dammit. This guy doesn’t know how lucky he is but he better shut up and leave.”

That was all before I realized that the wood wasn’t just wet from the rain that day.  Burning unseasoned wood is like burning money and when you’re burning it in a house built in the literal olden days that hasn’t kept up up with the times, the house becomes a giant metaphor for the #GrabYourWallet movement and maybe the whole Trump presidency.

And now all I want for Christmas is a wood splitter so I can get the rest of that salvaged wood split without killing myself and a pick-up truck so I can go into business delivering good firewood to cold people while not being a capitalist rat.



[Guest Post] Industrialism vs Labor

Special thanks and appreciation to Isaac Hoppe for writing this. On point food for thought.



People, collectively, are not freer to pursue creative tasks nor less dependent on skills of self-reliance because of the Industrial Revolution. People are still trying to depend on those tasks to supplement their income or provide all of it, just like people have always done. Communication technology has had a much bigger impact on self-reliance and creative work than the Industrial Revolution had. Communication allowed people to access the new products and culture. The Arts & Crafts movement of the early 20th century demonstrated this, as art and pop culture at once suddenly became far more self-referential and sought to refresh skills that were being replaced by machines.

There is a conflict between automation and skills that continues to inform our culture. Automation cast as the answer to all our problems, a savior come to free us from drudgery, while skills such as knitting and even cooking are treated as kitschy, bourgeois hobbies rather than meaningful and practical tools for survival.

And modern life is suffering from that idea. We not only don’t regularly educate children in those skills anymore, we put their practice out of the reach of the poor simply as a consequence of supply and demand. The materials for creative work have gotten expensive because the burden is now almost entirely on an individual. The sharing economy hasn’t quite gotten to the idea of sharing, say, a loom or a kitchen, when it used to be quite common.

Once you’ve made something, though, then you have to navigate the marketplaces for creative works, places that are notoriously nightmarish for a seller and flooded with “creative works” that are impractical or only meant to be luxuries. Meaning, the buying side of the market in marketplaces such as Etsy, Fiverr, or Freelancer is extremely limited, not nearly enough demand to absorb the supply.

And the worst part? The worse the economy gets, the more people try to make ends meet with “creative tasks” but only know how to use their skills like a hobby, not a problem-solving tool.

To underline the problem with that, it’s worth citing a line from an image macro that is popular among my circle: “the backlash against minimum wage increases is really just capitalism admitting it can’t provide for its workers’; basic needs”. I’d level that finger against industrialism (not the same as just technology in general), instead, but the relevant point here is that our needs are not actually being met by the prevailing systems.

There is a happy little report by the UN stating that world poverty is at its lowest point ever, that fewer people are impoverished now than at any time since the UN was founded. Problem: the only metric they measured poverty by was income, regardless of how it affected ability to meet basic needs of nutrition, water and shelter.

Example: people in urban food deserts get a large portion of their diet from bodegas, where there is little or no fresh food available. Even if someone managed to game the system to receive a wealth of food stamps, what food is available to them is fundamentally detrimental to their health so having more to eat still wouldn’t meet their actual nutritional needs.

Industrialism is not going to address this kind of problem. We need to reclaim historic skills like gardening, canning, and sharing. And we need to look at those skills with a better lens, applying them to solve practical problems rather than generating more superfluous luxuries.



Weekend Links

A trove of read-worthy links relating to poverty and inequality.


The Poor People’s Campaign: The little known protest MLK was planing when he died – The goal: to demand that President Lyndon B. Johnson and Congress take action to help poor people get employment, health care, and decent housing. The tactic: marching through the US Capitol and demonstrating at federal agencies to convince Congress to pass major anti-poverty legislation. The unique approach: the participants would physically stay there, living on the National Mall in an encampment dubbed Resurrection City, until they saw results.

J. Cole is turning 2014 Forest Hills Drive into  rent-free housing for single mothers with multiple children – J Cole bought back the house his mother lost. Now he wants to help other families headed by single mothers raise themselves out of poverty by letting them live there rent free. It’s a stellar idea.

Dropkick Murphys want Scott Walker to stop using their music – Scott Walker is one of those guys who hates poor people and the working class and also fails to listen to the lyrics in catchy songs. I mean… otherwise, why would he choose a pro-worker’s rights song as an anthem?

Living with a record: How past crimes drive job seekers into poverty – Once the sentence is served, it should be considered served. The end.

When Bootstraps Don’t Work. (Image: Khalil Bendib / Otherwords)

Inequality is Costing Us Big-Time – If America had been as equal in 2007 as it was in 1979, that average income would have been $94,310. In other words, inequality is costing the average American family about $18,000 a year.

Sweatshop: Dead Cheap Fashion puts fashion bloggers in sweatshops –  I haven’t watched this yet but I’m intrigued. The concept is to raise awareness of the horrifying conditions for workers, Danish fashion bloggers go to work in a Cambodian sweatshop. As always with these types of docu-dramas, there are critics both praising it for expose factor and others condemning for exploitation and poverty-tourism feel.

Old doctor treats poor patients without insurance for free – The state of Mississippi says because he uses his car, it’s an unauthorized mobile clinic and is trying to take his license. Of course.

Library social worker helps homeless people seeking quiet refuge -I didn’t know it until reading this that I want to be a library social worker when I grow up.
In the public library in the city closest to me, the bathrooms are locked. You have to ask for the key. If you look like you might be homeless, they won’t give it to you. The people who work at the library are not very nice to homeless coming in to use the resources. It’s definitely awful. They need a social worker on staff, please.

Today’s Reads: “”We have an image of hunger that comes from Africa, but this is America.And unless your belly is distended we don’t have an image of what hunger looks like here.”

All the read-worthy things for this evening.

Viola Davis talked to People Magazine about digging through trash and stealing food as a kid growing up with hunger.

Now partnering with the Safeway Foundationand the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Davis is spearheading the campaign forHunger Is to raise awareness and funds to fight childhood hunger. 

“We have an image of hunger that comes from Africa, but this is America,” Davis adds. “And unless your belly is distended we don’t have an image of what hunger looks like here.” 

Food programs like Hunger Is were instrumental in helping Davis achieve her dreams and goals. “I am the first generation of my family to go to college. Those programs made all the difference for me,” says the actress, who has five siblings. “It’s been cathartic for me because I always had a lot of shame with going in the garbage dumps that had maggots in it, too. It has brought healing in my life to be able to talk about it.” 
If you are 35 or younger – and quite often, older – the advice of the old economy does not apply to you. You live in the post-employment economy, where corporations have decided not to pay people. Profits are still high. The money is still there. But not for you. You will work without a raise, benefits, or job security. Survival is now a laudable aspiration.
Quoted from Sarah Kendzior’s “Surviving the Post-Employment Economy

“In the United States, nine percent of computer science majors are unemployed, and 14.7 percent of those who hold degrees in information systems have no job. Graduates with degrees in STEM – science, technology, engineering and medicine – are facing record joblessness, with unemployment at more than twice pre-recession levels. The job market for law degree holders continues to erode, with only 55 percent of 2011 law graduates in full-time jobs. Even in the military, that behemoth of the national budget, positions are being eliminated or becoming contingent due to the sequester.

It is not skills or majors that are being devalued. It is people.”

Her work is frank, speaking of a reality I hope that will never be mine. At the same time, it gives me a strange comfort to know that I am not alone.

(via sextus—empiricus)




This is the worst city in America to be homeless.

A must read.


Florida homeless center’s superior reason for growth- more medical care: (Op-Ed via @bradentonherald)

And you thought nothing good ever happened in Florida.


via victorequality

Not only does capitalism depend on it, it treats it the shittiest. Domestic workers tend to be women and non-white, helping capitalism contribute to the marginalization of those people.



Prison labor booms as unemployment remains high; companies reap benefits

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via thepeoplesrecord:

Prison labor booms as unemployment remains high; companies reap benefits

Prison labor is being harvested on a massive scale, according to professors Steve Fraser and Joshua B. Freeman.

“All told, nearly a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day,” the professors write.

And some prisoners don’t make a dime for their work, according to the Nation, which notes that many inmates in Racine, Wis. are not paid for their work, but receive time off their sentences.

The companies that do pay workers can get up to 40 percent of the money back in taxpayer-funded reimbursements, according to RT.

That not only puts companies that use prison labor at a distinct advantage against their competitors, but, according to Scott Paul, Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, it means American workers lose out.

“It’s bad enough that our companies have to compete with exploited and forced labor in China,” Paul told the Nation. “They shouldn’t have to compete against prison labor here at home. The goal should be for other nations to aspire to the quality of life that Americans enjoy, not to discard our efforts through a downward competitive spiral.”

Companies like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T, Starbucks and Walmart all take advantage of that so-called “competitive spiral.”

One of Walmart’s suppliers, Martori Farms, was the subject of an exposé by Truthout in which one female prisoner described her typical day working for the private company.

Currently, we are forced to work in the blazing sun for eight hours. We run out of water several times a day. We ran out of sunscreen several times a week. They don’t check medical backgrounds or ages before they pull women for these jobs. Many of us cannot do it! If we stop working and sit on the bus or even just take an unauthorized break, we get a major ticket which takes away our ‘good time’.

In response, Joseph Oddo, Martori Farms’ human resource director, told the Guardian that the company is no longer using inmates because prisons are not always able to provide workers on call the way they need. Oddo also said that workers were provided enough water, but the prisoners didn’t sip it slowly enough.

In a press release on Walmart’s site, Ron McCormick, vice-president for produce, said, “our relationship with Martori Farms is an excellent example of the kind of collaboration we strive for with our suppliers.”